Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jim Crawford on changing NCLB

The way I read them, George Miller's remarks yesterday confirm the shift we've noticed in the politics of NCLB reauthorization, as compared to just a few months ago. Owing to its widespread unpopularity at the grassroots, this law has few staunch defenders in Congress. On the other hand, it still has strong support from corporate interests and their "civil rights" allies. So the chairman appears to be trying to strike a middle course that would please both sides -- an impossible feat, in my view.

Although his rhetoric is encouraging -- "the American people have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair. That it is not flexible. And that it is not funded" -- we would be naive to discount the continuing influence of EdTrust, Aspen, Business Roundtable, NLCR, et al. Given their huge resources and the complexity of the legislation, which is tailor-made for backroom deals, the test-and-punish lobby still enjoys a big advantage.

So I expect that the details of Miller's forthcoming proposal will fall short on his promises for substantial changes -- unless we keep the pressure on. For those who want to influence NCLB reauthorization, now would be an excellent time -- the Congressional recess, Aug. 6 - Sept. 4 -- to meet with your representatives and senators back home. After Miller's bill is unveiled and House members start signing on, either out of ignorance of the issues or under pressure from their party leaders (or both), it will be much harder to have an impact. Similar forces will be at work this fall on the Senate side as well.

Again, Miller's speech is posted at: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/edlabor_dem/RelJul30NCLBSpeech.html.

Jim Crawford

Rep. George Miller can be contacted at:

Crucial Lawmaker Outlines Changes to Education Law

Published: July 31, 2007

WASHINGTON, July 30 — The chairman of the House education committee, an original architect of the federal No Child Left Behind law, said Monday that he wanted to change the law so that annual reading and math tests would not be the sole measure of school performance, but that other indicators like high school graduation rates and test scores in other subjects would also be taken into account.

“Our legislation will continue to place strong emphasis on reading and math skills,” the chairman, Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, said at the National Press Club. “But it will allow states to use more than their reading and math test results to determine how well schools and students are doing.”

In the speech, Mr. Miller described an array of criticisms that have emerged over the past year in hearings on renewing the education law. But he repeated his commitment to the law and spoke passionately of its goal of raising the achievement of poor and minority students.

His comments were the first public disclosure of changes he would make to the law, which was put together by President Bush with strong bipartisan support in 2001. Although business leaders and education and civil rights advocates praised Mr. Miller’s vision for renewal, they also said they would reserve judgment until an actual bill appeared. Mr. Miller said that would probably occur in September.

In response to questions about his proposal for broadening the measures of student achievement, Mr. Miller said additional indicators of progress could include participation in Advanced Placement or college preparatory curriculums, high school graduation rates and statewide tests in subjects other than reading and math.

Students “would still have to do very well on reading and math,” he said, adding, “This is not an escape hatch.”

Still, Mr. Miller’s remarks provoked immediate reaction from the ranking Republican on the education committee, Representative Howard P. McKeon of California, who said any changes that would weaken “accountability, flexibility and parental choice will be met with strong opposition from House Republicans and are likely to be a fatal blow to the reauthorization process.”

The White House referred questions to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who hinted that the administration would rather see no bill at all than one that “rolled back the clock on school accountability.”

“While we all hope to see action on reauthorization soon, a comprehensive bill that has bipartisan support and holds firm to the goal of every child reading and doing math on grade level by 2014 is worth the wait,” Ms. Spellings said in a prepared statement.

In his speech, Mr. Miller acknowledged the many complaints about the No Child Left Behind law from school districts nationwide, saying: “Throughout our schools and communities, the American people have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair. That it is not flexible. And that it is not funded. And they are not wrong.”

Mr. Miller said he would also propose so-called pay for performance, which would pay teachers more based in part on how much their students improved, and a system to reward schools if students were on a trajectory to reach proficiency within a few years, even if they were not actually on grade level. He also said a new law would differentiate between schools that failed on a broad scale and those in which only one or two groups of students came up short, allowing solutions tailored to each school’s specific deficiencies.

Currently, the law requires annual testing in reading and math for students in Grades 3 to 8. High school students must be tested once. Schools must report results to show that each demographic group — low-income, minority and special education students, along with students for whom English is a second language — is showing sufficient progress toward 100 percent proficiency by 2014. High poverty schools that fail to show sufficient progress, which currently number more than 9,000, face steadily more severe penalties, including possible closure.

Susan Traiman, director of education and workforce policy at the Business Roundtable, a coalition of companies closely involved in the passage of the original law, said the group was encouraged by Mr. Miller’s remarks but hoped to see a bill with bipartisan support.

“We need to see the details on what he means by these multiple measures and how these would work,” Ms. Traiman said.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bill Moyers and Impeachment

Rep.George Miller on NCLB

Miller is the Chair of the House Education and Labor committee where a re-authorization of NCLB will come from.
Here is his prepared speech today. It is a sad day for public education.


The speech does not give me confidence that he yet understands the issues. It is noteworthy that each of the Democratic Party presidential candidates gets it that the bill need substantive changing- or scrapping.
I do not know what is the problem with Miller. Has he been captured by Ed Trust and the other semi civil rights organizations so that he uses their frame to consider the bill?
It is clear that he is not listening to people who teach and work in real schools.
Or, perhaps he does get it and this speech is just using buzz words like accountability to keep together the coalition of the past. The NCLB passed last time almost unanimously. And, it has failed. It has particularly failed poor and minority kids and their schools.
There are numerous prior posts on this failure.
Any ideas on how to get the Congressman to listen to the people who work in the schools? I have asked two local Democratic Congresspeople to contact Miller. I received back vague, slogan filled, form letters.

there are many ideas at www.fairtest.org

It is most unfortunate that the Democratic chair is not listening. It appears we will have to move beyond letter writing and testimony.

Clinton and Empire

Clinton, Kissinger and the Corruptions of Empire

By John Nichols

The Nation - July 26, 2007

Of all the corruptions of empire, few are darker than
the claim that diplomacy must be kept secret from the
citizenry.This hide-it-from-the people faith that only a
cloistered group of unelected and often unaccountable
elites - embodied by the nefarious and eminently
indictable Henry Kissinger - is capable of steering the
affairs of state pushes Americans out of the processes
that determine whether their sons and daughters will die
in distant wars, whether the factories where they worked
will be shuttered, whether their country will respond to
or neglect genocide, whether their tax dollars will go
to pay for the unspeakable.

It allows for the dirty game where foreign countries are
included or excluded from contact with the U.S. based on
unspoken whims and self-serving schemes, where trade
deals are negotiated without congressional oversight and
then presented in take-it-or-leave-it form and where war
is made easy by secretive cliques that are as willing to
lie to presidents as they do to the people.

Unlike the excluded and neglected people, however,
presidents have the authority to break this vicious
cycle by making personal contact with foreign leaders,
by publicly meeting with and debating allies and rivals,
by taking global policymaking out of the shadows and
into the light of day. When the president is personally
and publicly in contact with the world, diplomacy is

As the most scrutinized figure on the planet, an
American president who meets and maintains contact with
leaders who may or may not follow the U.S. line on any
particular issue involves not just him- or herself in
the discussion but also the American people. The
president lifts the veil of secrecy behind which
horrible things can be done in our name but without our
informed consent.

So it matters, it matters a great deal, whether those
who seek the presidency promote transparent and
democratic foreign policies or a continuation of a
corrupt status quo that has rendered the United States
dysfunctional, misguided and hated by most of the world
- and that has caused more than 80 percent of Americans
to say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
In the race for the Democratic nomination for president,
the two frontrunners are lining up on opposite sides of
the question of whether foreign policy should be
conducted in public or behind the tattered curtain of
corruption that has given us unnecessary wars in Vietnam
and Iraq, U.S.-sponsored coups from Iran to Chile, trade
policies designed to serve multinational corporations
and a seeming inability to respond to the crisis that is

Hillary Clinton, the candidate of all that is and will
be, wants there to be no doubt that she is in the
Kissinger camp.

The New York senator’s campaign is attacking her chief
rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama ¤, for daring to
suggest that, he would personally meet with foreign
leaders who do not always march in lockstep with the
U.S. government.

In Monday’s night’s YouTube debate, candidates were
asked it they would be willing to meet "with leaders of
Syria, Iran, Venezuela during their first term," Obama
immediately responded that, yes, he would be willing to
do so. He explained that "the notion that somehow not
talking to countries is punishment to them " which has
been the guiding diplomatic principle of this
administration " is ridiculous."

Clinton disagreed in the debate and now her camp is
declaring that, "There is a clear difference between the
two approaches these candidates are taking: Senator
Obama has committed to presidential-level meetings with
some of the world’s worst dictators without precondition
during his first year in office."

Leaving aside the fact that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, a
popularly elected leader, is not one of the "world’s
worst dictators," it is particularly galling that
Clinton - in her rush to trash Obama - is contradicting
her own declaration in an April debate that, "I think it
is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will
not talk with bad people."

Unfortunately, Clinton’s vote to give Bush a blank check
for war in Iraq and her defense of that war, her support
for neo-liberal economics and a Wall Street-defined free
trade agenda and her general disregard for popular
involvement in foreign-policy debates suggests that the
senator is showing true self when she dismisses the
value of presidential engagement with the leaders of
foreign lands.

Clinton is playing politics this week. But in a broader
sense she is aligning herself with a secretive and anti-
democratic approach to global affairs that steers the
United States out of the global community while telling
the American people that foreign policy is the domain
only of shadowy Kissingers.

She is not just wrong in this, she is Bush/Cheney wrong.
John Nichols’ new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The
Founders’ Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim
Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately
argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich
examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of
the ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call
for Democratic leaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most
vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense
of our most basic liberties.’"

Copyright © 2007 The Nation

Saturday, July 28, 2007

NCLB and Ideology

Jim Cummins Demolishes NCLB's Ideology and Practice

by Meteor Blades

Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 11:49:56 AM PDT

Two days before Jim Cummins stood behind the podium at the annual conference of the organization of California Teachers of Other Languages (CATESOL) in San Diego, the place buzzed about his coming appearance. Four standing ovations indicated that he did not disappoint.

No surprise. A treasured, no-nonsense voice in the world of second-language acquisition, during the past three decades, Cummins, now a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, has touched the life of many an English as a second language teacher, inspiring thousands with a thoroughly grounded iconoclastic approach to the pedagogy of language. He has shattered myths, developed new theories and concepts, promoted innovations in the classroom, affected policy, and arguably done as much to shift the paradigm of language instruction as Noam Chomsky 20 years earlier did to shift scientific thought toward a paradigm of innate universal grammar.

Cummins is Canada Research Chair in Language and Literacy Development in Multilingual Contexts at the University of Toronto and a prolific author of books on second language learning and literacy development. His research has focused on the nature of language proficiency and second language acquisition with particular emphasis on the social and educational barriers that limit academic success for culturally diverse students. Recent books include Literacy, Technology, and Diversity: Teaching for Success in Changing Times, Language, Power and Pedagogy, Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society, and Bilingual Children's Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education ?

In a simultaneously scathing and humorous talk, "I'm not just a coloring person," Cummins laid out a case that what is happening now in the schools is not science but ideology, with federal and state policies imposing a pedagogical divide in which "poor kids get behaviorism and rich kids get social constructionism." In practice, that means skills for the poor and knowledge for the rich. That ideologically based approach ignores and rejects research into the way students learn, particularly how they learn language and how to read, he said.

Cummins challenged educational practices resulting from federal No Child Left Behind legislation, with its emphasis on standardized tests and consequent teaching "to the tests," saying instructional approaches now being imposed are something that most in the audience wouldn't want their own children to suffer. These approaches have, he said, more to do with teaching rats than humans. He urged his audience to reclaim good instruction with attention to the lessons of social constructionism instead of treating students with a behaviorist approach in which, as B.F. Skinner proved, even pigeons can be taught to play ping-pong.

"We have choices," Cummins asserted. "A lot of folks at higher levels in the hierarchy don't want you to know that you have choices because the dominant model of school improvement that is being inflicted in many states as part of the No Child Left Behind reading-first approach is to impose what is viewed as a scientifically supported approach to instruction and to wipe out teacher choice, to make it as teacher-proof as possible."

In spite of an array of ideological and bureaucratic efforts to undermine teachers, he said, "we always have choices. Even when we're not conscious we have choices, even when we're teaching in constrained conditions, where our principals, our superintendents, our administrators, our coaches, are ensuring that we use choice in as limited way as possible, we're always making choices." To make a positive difference under these circumstances, he said, "We need to make the choice to reclaim our identities as educators ..."

Comparing the research into instructional methods that work with what actually happens today in the schools, particularly in inner cities, it is "very clear," Cummins said, that the current approach in too many U.S. schools is 90% ideology and 10% science. Research is ignored, misunderstood, misinterpreted and distorted to favor that ideology.

Sprinkling the findings of researchers throughout his speech, Cummins repeatedly pointed out that when students' identities are affirmed in the classroom, they feel comfortable investing their identities into the literacy activities and practices, and they learn more. When they are encouraged to share unique personal experiences, when use of their first language is not discouraged, when "decoding" techniques are not the end-all and be-all of instruction, when students feel they have a voice in the classroom and that people want to hear what they have to say, when "shared inquiry," "critical literacy," "grand conversations" and "social justice" are accepted parts of the teaching process, students learn better and become engaged with their own education. "I haven't been able to find those terms in No Child Left Behind," he said.

How does NCLB fit into the pedagogical picture?

Bilingual and English learners are now part of the accountability map. "That's the good news. ...That's the end of the good news."

On the negative side, he lamented:

• standardized tests dominate curriculum and instruction; first language literacy is discouraged and undervalued;
• going against extensive research into reading, the NCLB focus is primarily on early reading (that is, "decoding");
• reading comprehension is neglected in the junior and intermediate grades, leading to fourth grade "slump." In effect, students don't know what they are reading;
• there is no focus on the affective sphere or student identity in reading engagement, and for low-income and bilingual/ELL students, transmission approaches dominate to the exclusion of transformative approaches.

One problem with the upcoming reauthorization of NCLB is that many policymakers don't want to change and "there is a lot of resistance to listening." In other words, it doesn't seem to matter what the researchers who actually know something about instruction have to say.

Two causal factors underlie the assumptions behind NCLB and Reading First, both of them profoundly flawed and contradicted by researchers.

Causal factor 1 is students' ineffective phonological awareness and phonics instruction, which Reading First advocates seek to remedy with a "systematic, explicit, intensive, sequential phonics instruction" and "direct instruction (pre-teaching) of vocabulary to promote reading comprehension." The drawback, Cummins argued, is that one of things the U.S. National Reading Panel "showed, which has been systematically fudged and distorted by folks who brought you Reading First, is that intensive phonics instruction – what they call intensive instruction – showed no positive effect on reading comprehension beyond the first grade for either low-achieving or normally achieving readers. ... For low-achieving kids, for normally achieving kids, any effects of phonics instruction washed out after grade one. That has not been broadly advertised by the Feds."

Causal factor 2 is a lack of accountability to obtain quality control, for which the NCLB-prescribed remedy is "tests, tests, tests."

Said Cummins, "Schooling has been reduced to the transmission of scripted skills and facts to the exclusion of inquiry, critical literacy, and social awareness. In schools across the country, instruction focuses relentlessly on teaching to the test. This is particularly the case in schools in low-income areas, which are considered most at-risk of failing to demonstrate 'adequate yearly progress'." He cited an ESL Maryland public schools teacher who calculated that in the 2004-2005 school-year, English learners in a fifth-grade class took five different standardized tests, some of them more than once. The consequences? "During the course of the year," the teacher wrote, "my students missed 33 days of ESL classes, or about 18% of their English instruction due to standardized testing."

Classroom practices undertaken to deal with these causal factors are "absolutely at variance with what the research is telling us."

Just how far off the mark the NCLB's behaviorist approach has taken us is apparent when "many of the reading programs being funded require that all children's literature be removed from classrooms." The rationale is that if students are exposed to texts for which they haven't been taught the phonics rules, they will figure out that spending so much time on such rules is useless. Phonics instruction is important, Cummins agreed, but it should not be done "in a mindless way" that ignores the research into its efficacy.

Cummins offered an alternative to the NCLB approach – under which more and more inner-city schools are failing every day. That alternative is school-based language planning which instructs along the lines of what the research has shown. Boiled down to its essentials, Cummins said, literacy attainment is directly related to literacy engagement. Such engagement requires participation, and effective participation requires that student identity is affirmed, which means first language learning should not be discouraged because "new understandings are constructed on a foundation of existing understandings and experiences."

His alternative focuses on a four-element approach: scaffolding meaning, activating prior knowledge and building background knowledge, affirming student identity and extending language in a way that uses the students' first language.

One example of a technique for developing participation is the student identity text – a kind of "journal" that can be written, spoken, visual, musical or multimodal combinations of these, and which holds "a mirror up to the student in which his or her identity is reflected back in a positive light."


P.S. by Duane Campbell
Unforutnately Congressman George Miller (D) of Contra Costa is not listening.
A series of groups who claim they are civil rights groups, including Education Trust, and the National Council de la Raza are pushing for the retention of the major provisions of NCLB. They are each heavily corprorate funded.
It is going to take a lot mor pressure to change this oppressive law.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cesar Chavez and Unions

A good post on Edwize by my friend Leo Casey.

No Cesar Chavez [Updated]

As an undergraduate in the early 1970s, I attended Antioch College, a great institution of education in the John Dewey mold of learning by doing. This is a distinction I share with some notable activists in the field of education [Deborah Meier and Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools] and teacher unionism [the late, sorely missed Tom Mooney of the Cincinnati and Ohio Federation of Teachers and Mark Simon, currently director of the Institute for Teacher Union Leadership]. There was something about the Antioch experience that set us all off on remarkably similar life journeys.

Antioch is apparently in its last days, barring a miraculous resurrection. Its departure will leave American education all that much more poorer. In an age when some conservatives are engaged in thoughtless assaults on the very idea of an education committed to social change, Antioch continued to proudly wear the motto of Horace Mann, its founder and a pivotal figure in the emergence of American public education — “Be ashamed to die until you have won some visctory for humanity.” Antioch led the way in admitting women and African-American students into its student body and its faculty, well before the Civil War.

One of Antioch’s distinctive features from the Depression era presidency of Arthur Morgan until a decade ago was a work-study program, in which one studied for six months of the calendar year and worked for the other six months in a field related to your studies. My second six month job, as a 19 year old young man, was working with Cesar Chavez’s United Farmworkers [UFW] in California. It was there that I first learned, in a way that book learning itself could simply not convey, the centrality of trade unionism in the struggle for human dignity and social justice. It was my first schooling in the techniques of organizing, as Chavez was a very able student of the famous Saul Alinsky, but it was much more: it was an introduction into the great untapped potential of ordinary working men and women as agents of progressive social change, once they were 0rganized. I went to the UFW an anti-Vietnam War activist of the Catholic Left, attracted by Chavez’s dedication to non-violence in the tradition of Martin Luther King, and I left with an immeasurably enrichened and broader understanding of the world.

Antioch was also one of the first testing grounds of my parent’s remarkable patience with their son’s political activism. They were awoken in the middle of one night, about 3 AM New York City time, to be told that I was in a California hospital, having been hitten over the head and knocked out cold while canvasing for the UFW. But don’t worry, the caller told them, he will be okay. My mother slept not another wink, and called sick into her job in a Bushwick elementary school the next day — for which she received some less than supportive comments from the officious school principal. Some things never change.

I offer this little autobiographical sketch of a moment in my life as an explanatory preface to the fact that one of the more powerful moments of my UFW experience was seeing Cesar Chavez in action, up close, a number of times. I can still recall a moment at a staff meeting at the La Paz union headquarters in the California desert where Chavez took on, directly and without the slightest equivocation, a Chicano narrow nationalist who suggested that there was no place for non-Chicanos in La Causa. The UFW was a multi-racial institution of all working people, Chavez responded, and so long as he was its leader, it would never turn one race against another, set up one ethnic group in opposition to the next. Anyone willing to assume the conditions of all UFW staff [which could only be described as a form of extreme voluntary poverty] was welcome in its ranks. I also recall how Chavez would join us, as we spent hours holding signs on freeways — the UFW’s answer to the grower bought advertising — to convince voters to reject a ballot referendum designed to destroy the UFW. No organizing task was below him.

This moment came back to me when I read this remarkable post from Mike Klonsky’s Small Talk, “Chavez and DuBois Rolling In Their Graves?” Klonsky provides a remarkably long list of charter schools that have assumed the name of Cesar Chavez, while denying their teachers the right to organize into an union. To borrow a somewhat worn turn of phrase, I knew Cesar Chavez and the members of the boards of trustees of these schools are no Cesar Chavez.

There is an incredibly thin, transparent veneer to the right wing rhetoric in education which seizes the mantle of the civil rights movement. The notion that Chavez would have given a moment of his day, much less his good name, to an anti-union institution is shameless.


Over at Eduwonk, Andy Rotherham thinks it is “preposterous” to suggest that unions have more of “a claim” on the legacy of Cesar Chavez than an anti-union Chicana daughter of migrant workers. But this is precisely the sort of shallow identity politics that Chavez so strongly opposed — the notion that one’s ethnic identity, one’s parentage, is more important than one’s substantive politics and one’s actual work in the world. Chavez’s unambiguous stand on this question was exactly the point of the anecdote I cited in the original post. The notion that Chavez would lend his name to an enterprise that opposes the right of its employees to organize into an union and bargain collectively, whether those employees be farmworkers or teachers, is one that can only rest on a complete misunderstanding of his life’s work for justice for all working people. The argument that he would have foregone the core principles of that life’s work simply because opposition to them came from a Chicana is beyond incredulous. There are also a great many teacher unionists of Latin American descent, including notable AFT leaders, who would take considerable exception to the notion that the union to which they belong is an “Anglo” institution.

Further, the notion that Chavez was a man whose principles could be bought for any amount of money, much less for $200,000 a year of AFT support for the United Farmworkers, is completely scurrilous. He led a life of great sacrifice for La Causa. Union solidarity may be a foreign concept to some, but in the AFT, it is a principle we hold dear — and that it why we have supported the UFW and other unions, when we could. We are proud of our solidarity work. That the claim of Chavez’s silence for money comes in the form of a report of a rumor of a personal conversation — none of it in the slightest verifiable — says just about everything that needs to be said on the subject.
Leo Casey

Friday, July 20, 2007

Barack Obama speaks to teachers

Excellent videos of Barack Obama at the National Education Association convention.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Supporting Barack Obama

We in the Progressive Alliance have decided for this period to not have an organizational endorsement of a single candidate for president. Rather, each of us can argue for and promote the candidate which we think will best advance progressive politics.
My friend and colleague Paul Burke is campaigning vigorously for former Senator John Edwards for President. You have been receiving e mail arguments for this position.

Here are two short video clips supporting my candidate: Barack Obama. If you wish to assist the local Obama effort, please let me know.
You can also donate directly to the Obama campaign at www.barackobama.com

Duane Campbell



Tuesday, July 17, 2007

NCLB produces cheating

Cheating on standardized tests isn't fleeting -- it's predictable
Walt Gardner
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Whatever the final outcome of the investigation into allegations of cheating on state-mandated tests for two consecutive years at University Preparatory Charter High School in East Oakland that led to the resignation of its director, Isaac Haqq, one thing is certain: The wrongdoing was altogether predictable, although not for the reasons being widely circulated in the community.

While lax oversight of the school undoubtedly played a role in the scandal, the cause is more fundamental. More than 30 years ago, Donald Campbell, an eminent social scientist, warned about the danger of measuring effectiveness by a single influential metric. The more any quantitative indicator is used for decision-making, he said, the more subject it will be to corruption and the more it will corrupt the very process it is intended to monitor.

The use of high-stakes testing is precisely the kind of process that Campbell's Law unwittingly foresaw. When attention is focused on standardized test scores to the exclusion of other factors in evaluating educational quality, the stage is ideally set for unethical behavior. Uprep, however, is not alone. And neither are charter schools.

In 1969, what was then called the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare wanted to increase reading and math scores for some 300 junior high and high school students in Texarkana, Ark. The district was under intense pressure to desegregate its schools and close the achievement gap between black and white students.

The district made the federal government an offer it couldn't refuse. Under a program called performance contracting, federal funds would be returned for students who failed to pass at a stipulated level. The experiment provided incentives for administrators, teachers and students. The initial evaluation was truly remarkable. Students averaged gains of more than two grade levels in reading and one in math after only 48 hours of instruction. But the miracle in Texarkana turned out to be the result of cheating on the high-stakes tests being used. Nevertheless, in the belief that what happened in Texarkana was an anomaly, the idea moved on to 18 other cities in the state. The lack of results there eventually put an end to performance contracting.

Fast forward to the No Child Left Behind Act, which became law in 2002. With so much riding on a single measure, corruption was bound to flourish under Campbell's Law. In fact, since 2004, at least 123 public schools in California alone have been identified as engaging in cheating on standardized tests required by No Child, according to a Chronicle review of documents. In about two-thirds of the cases, schools admitted their guilt. While the number represents a small fraction of the state's 9,468 public schools, it still is cause for deep concern.

Cheating can take many subtle forms. Administrators have pushed out struggling students from their schools by encouraging them to enroll in continuation classes, or have advised them to stay home on testing day because they constitute a liability. The pressure to post high scores on the closely watched tests is greater than ethical considerations.

Campbell's Law also shows up in higher education, when researchers fabricate or manipulate data in order to get tenure or receive lucrative grants, and in business, when top management cooks the books to boost the company's price in order to inflate the value of their stock options.

In fact, the law is so ubiquitous that it's surprising it hasn't garnered more attention. That's likely to change in the years ahead, however, as high-stakes tests continue to be viewed as the gold standard of accountability. One way to resist this trend and minimize Campbell's Law is to bear in mind Albert Einstein's prescient words: "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted." This caveat won't eliminate cheating entirely, but it provides the rationale for reconsidering the nation's insular approach to educational quality.

Walt Gardner taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer in the UCLA Graduate School of Education.

NCLB needs change

No Child law's authors work on a revision

Respond to complaints

By Susan Milligan, Boston Globe | July 16, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The landmark No Child Left Behind law, which has drawn impassioned criticism from educators and parents unhappy with its stringent requirements for public schools to raise students' test scores, is being rewritten on Capitol Hill to fix what the bill's authors now acknowledge are flaws.

Lawmakers say they will not abandon the basic tenets of the legislation, which requires yearly testing of elementary and some secondary school students, and holds schools and districts accountable for poor test scores.

But after five years of complaints -- followed by sit-downs in recent months with teachers, administrators, and civil rights leaders -- Congress and the Bush administration are ready to change the way schools and students are rated.

They say the changes will help states and school districts identify more clearly which students need extra help, while avoiding labeling entire schools as failing because they have students who are harder to teach, such as those with learning disabilities or limited English skills.

The original authors of the bill, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Representative George Miller, are looking at a slew of changes, including expanding the way "adequate yearly progress" is calculated, so schools that barely miss the testing thresholds are not put in the same failing category as schools with across-the-board learning problems.

Other proposals include giving schools more time to improve test scores before schools are forced to take corrective action.

"Everything's up for review," said Miller , Democrat of California and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "I've always said I was the proud co author of No Child Left Behind. . . . Now, I'm determined to be the proud author of a No Child Left Behind that works."

Kennedy, who worked closely with President Bush in writing the law, has for years said the much-reviled measure would work if the administration provided the money schools need to develop good tests and help struggling students, especially those in poorer school districts.

But the Massachusetts Democrat said in a Globe interview that he now believes the law itself must be changed as well. Many of the presidential candidates in both parties have called for changes in the law, and several -- including Democratic Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Hillary Clinton of New York, and Barack Obama of Illinois -- have introduced legislation.

"We still have to have the concept of accountability," said Kennedy, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. But "what we need to do is get away from labeling, get away from the punitive aspects, and give help and assistance to the neediest schools. We're now on a pathway to make some sense on this."

Miller and Kennedy said they hope to begin work this month on writing the revised version of No Child Left Behind. The law is up for reauthorization this year, which means Congress must vote on whether to extend it.

Miller said he was pessimistic only six weeks ago that he could rally his Democratic colleagues to extend the controversial law, but has recently convinced fellow lawmakers that the law can work well if it is rewritten to address the complaints from constituents.

The law requires yearly testing in math and reading for students in grades 3 through 8; students are also tested once in high school to gauge their academic progress. Schools can be labeled as in need of improvement -- and eventually, as a failing school -- if students' scores do not meet what the law calls "adequate yearly progress."

The law provides for additional help for students needing assistance, and parents can also send their children to another public school if a school is deemed unsuccessful. In extreme cases, a school can be closed for poor performance.

Educators have complained mightily about the law, saying the testing rules do not fully measure whether a student is learning. School administrators say they are being wrongly punished for lower test scores from students with learning difficulties, and some parents are unhappy with schools' decisions to curtail art and music education to focus on meeting testing thresholds in math and reading.

Funding, too, is a major complaint from both educators and congressional Democrats, who say that No Child Left Behind has never been given all the money authorized in the law by Congress. The Bush administration said that funding for elementary and secondary schools has increased each year since Bush took office, often by more than it did under President Bill Clinton -- a fact Kennedy acknowledges.

But states are still not getting the money they need to develop appropriate tests and provide the extra help students need to make the test-score improvements demanded in the law, Kennedy said.

Nonetheless, complaints from teachers have been so strong that some say it is unclear whether the changes under consideration will appease educators, and some political leaders, unhappy with No Child Left Behind.

While teachers say they share the goals of providing a high-quality education to all children, regardless of race, economic background, or disability, many fear that the rules might undermine public education and send more students fleeing into private schools.

"The Bush administration was setting up the public schools to fail, and to undermine public confidence" in them, said Kevin Fleming , a teacher at Winnacunnet High School in Exeter, N.H.

At a conference late last month for the National Education Association, candidates for president slammed the law, saying the testing requirements force educators to "teach to the test" and stifle creativity in the classroom.

Further, the testing structure -- which holds schools accountable for the progress of an entire class, instead of individual students -- is unrealistic, said NEA president Reg Weaver. "Not all children learn at the same rate, at the same speed," Weaver said in an interview.

Dodd is author of the most sweeping package on Capitol Hill to overhaul No Child Left Behind. Dodd annoyed some of his colleagues when he introduced his proposal several years ago, when the education law was still new. He is now drawing support for some of the alterations he's seeking. They include easing certification requirements for teachers and giving schools more ways to show they are making students better at math and reading.

"Test scores obviously have value, but if it's the only thing you're doing, you're not making a coherent and substantial judgment of how an individual is doing or how a school is doing," Dodd said in an interview.

More than 30 pieces of legislation to alter No Child Left Behind have been introduced on Capitol Hill, by the NEA's count -- some of them from Republicans.

Senators Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Richard Burr of North Carolina -- both Republicans -- introduced legislation last week aimed at keeping the accountability and testing concepts while giving more leeway to schools. For example, the bill would give schools more time to achieve test standards among children just learning English, and treat schools with small populations of low-achieving students less harshly than those with widespread problems.

The Bush administration is also ready to make some changes in the law.

The Department of Education has launched a limited program allowing several states to use different ways of calculating a school's progress in boosting test scores.

"We shifted our national education dialogue from how much we are spending to how much children are learning," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a statement. "Today, we need a new conversation about how to strengthen and improve this law."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Waiting for health care

Subject: The Waiting Game
Date: July 16, 2007 7:35:58 PM PDT
\The Waiting Game
by Paul Krugman

Published on Monday, July 16, 2007 by The New York
Times, distributed by Common Dreams

Being without health insurance is no big deal. Just ask
President Bush. "I mean, people have access to health
care in America," he said last week. "After all, you
just go to an emergency room."

This is what you might call callousness with
consequences. The White House has announced that Mr.
Bush will veto a bipartisan plan that would extend
health insurance, and with it such essentials as
regular checkups and preventive medical care, to an
estimated 4.1 million currently uninsured children.
After all, it's not as if those kids really need
insurance - they can just go to emergency rooms, right?

O.K., it's not news that Mr. Bush has no empathy for
people less fortunate than himself. But his willful
ignorance here is part of a larger picture: by and
large, opponents of universal health care paint a
glowing portrait of the American system that bears as
little resemblance to reality as the scare stories they
tell about health care in France, Britain, and Canada.

The claim that the uninsured can get all the care they
need in emergency rooms is just the beginning. Beyond
that is the myth that Americans who are lucky enough to
have insurance never face long waits for medical care.

Actually, the persistence of that myth puzzles me. I
can understand how people like Mr. Bush or Fred
Thompson, who declared recently that "the poorest
Americans are getting far better service" than
Canadians or the British, can wave away the desperation
of uninsured Americans, who are often poor and
voiceless. But how can they get away with pretending
that insured Americans always get prompt care, when
most of us can testify otherwise?

A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: "In
reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American
people are already waiting as long or longer than
patients living with universal health-care systems."

A cross-national survey conducted by the Commonwealth
Fund found that America ranks near the bottom among
advanced countries in terms of how hard it is to get
medical attention on short notice (although Canada was
slightly worse), and that America is the worst place in
the advanced world if you need care after hours or on a

We look better when it comes to seeing a specialist or
receiving elective surgery. But Germany outperforms us
even on those measures - and I suspect that France,
which wasn't included in the study, matches Germany's

Besides, not all medical delays are created equal. In
Canada and Britain, delays are caused by doctors trying
to devote limited medical resources to the most urgent
cases. In the United States, they're often caused by
insurance companies trying to save money.

This can lead to ordeals like the one recently
described by Mark Kleiman, a professor at U.C.L.A., who
nearly died of cancer because his insurer kept delaying
approval for a necessary biopsy. "It was only later,"
writes Mr. Kleiman on his blog, "that I discovered why
the insurance company was stalling; I had an option,
which I didn't know I had, to avoid all the approvals
by going to 'Tier II,' which would have meant higher

He adds, "I don't know how many people my insurance
company waited to death that year, but I'm certain the
number wasn't zero."

To be fair, Mr. Kleiman is only surmising that his
insurance company risked his life in an attempt to get
him to pay more of his treatment costs. But there's no
question that some Americans who seemingly have good
insurance nonetheless die because insurers are trying
to hold down their "medical losses" - the industry term
for actually having to pay for care.

On the other hand, it's true that Americans get hip
replacements faster than Canadians. But there's a funny
thing about that example, which is used constantly as
an argument for the superiority of private health
insurance over a government-run system: the large
majority of hip replacements in the United States are
paid for by, um, Medicare.

That's right: the hip-replacement gap is actually a
comparison of two government health insurance systems.
American Medicare has shorter waits than Canadian
Medicare (yes, that's what they call their system)
because it has more lavish funding - end of story. The
alleged virtues of private insurance have nothing to do
with it.

The bottom line is that the opponents of universal
health care appear to have run out of honest arguments.
All they have left are fantasies: horror fiction about
health care in other countries, and fairy tales about
health care here in America.

Paul Krugman is Professor of Economics at Princeton
University and a regular New York Times columnist. His
most recent book is The Great Unraveling: Losing Our
Way in the New Century.

(c) 2007 The New York Times

BTW. The California effort is not much better.

This from Hana Beth Jackson on the California Progress Report blog:

With Senator Kuehl's SB 840, the true reform measure of the year having advanced another step last week, this week highlighted the lesser but still reform-minded bill, AB 8 which is authored by Senate Leader Perata and Assembly Speaker Nunez. After 2 hours and 50 or so witnesses later, the measure passed on a party-line (no surprise there). The bill is being touted as a landmark bill that will overhaul our state's $186 Billion health care system. In doing so, it would extend medical insurance coverage to 3.4 million working Californians by requiring employers without health plans to pay a 7.5% payroll tax to buy insurance for all its workers. Employees would be required to put in 4.5% of their income as a match.

Of course, when all is said and done, it still keeps the insurance industry alive and well and taking out lots of money that would otherwise go to provide health care, not health insurance. But until we're willing to buck up and create a Medicare-for-all type program, this has some legs and hopefully some benefit to the millions of Californians without any health insurance or access to adequate health care. This one will end up in a "Conference" where the Governor will put forward his still orphaned plan. Not surprisingly, no Republicans will support any of these discussions. It's the same old song---just another "job-killer" with the current Republican leadership demonstrating, sadly, that it is only interested in protecting its big corporate owners/donors.


That is, if you leave the insurance companies in place, as does AB 8, you leave the insurance companies richer and the health care system paying a 30% over cost. Then, if you do this, health care will be too expensive.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Health care Terror: Krugman

Health Care Terror

By Paul Krugman

New York Times July 9, 2007

These days terrorism is the first refuge of scoundrels.
So when British authorities announced that a ring of
Muslim doctors working for the National Health Service
was behind the recent failed bomb plot, we should have
known what was coming.

"National healthcare: Breeding ground for terror?" read
the on-screen headline, as the Fox News host Neil
Cavuto and the commentator Jerry Bowyer solemnly
discussed how universal health care promotes terrorism.

While this was crass even by the standards of Bush-era
political discourse, Fox was following in a long
tradition. For more than 60 years, the medical-
industrial complex and its political allies have used
scare tactics to prevent America from following its
conscience and making access to health care a right for
all its citizens.

I say conscience, because the health care issue is,
most of all, about morality.

That's what we learn from the overwhelming response to
Michael Moore's "Sicko." Health care reformers should,
by all means, address the anxieties of middle-class
Americans, their growing and justified fear of finding
themselves uninsured or having their insurers deny
coverage when they need it most. But reformers
shouldn't focus only on self-interest. They should also
appeal to Americans' sense of decency and humanity.

What outrages people who see "Sicko" is the sheer
cruelty and injustice of the American health care
system - sick people who can't pay their hospital bills
literally dumped on the sidewalk, a child who dies
because an emergency room that isn't a participant in
her mother's health plan won't treat her, hard-working
Americans driven into humiliating poverty by medical

"Sicko" is a powerful call to action - but don't count
the defenders of the status quo out. History shows that
they're very good at fending off reform by finding new
ways to scare us.

These scare tactics have often included over-the-top
claims about the dangers of government insurance.
"Sicko" plays part of a recording Ronald Reagan once
made for the American Medical Association, warning that
a proposed program of health insurance for the elderly
- the program now known as Medicare - would lead to

Right now, by the way, Medicare - which did enormous
good, without leading to a dictatorship - is being
undermined by privatization.

Mainly, though, the big-money interests with a stake in
the present system want you to believe that universal
health care would lead to a crushing tax burden and
lousy medical care.

Now, every wealthy country except the United States
already has some form of universal care. Citizens of
these countries pay extra taxes as a result - but they
make up for that through savings on insurance premiums
and out-of-pocket medical costs. The overall cost of
health care in countries with universal coverage is
much lower than it is here.

Meanwhile, every available indicator says that in terms
of quality, access to needed care and health outcomes,
the U.S. health care system does worse, not better,
than other advanced countries - even Britain, which
spends only about 40 percent as much per person as we

Yes, Canadians wait longer than insured Americans for
elective surgery. But over all, the average Canadian's
access to health care is as good as that of the average
insured American - and much better than that of
uninsured Americans, many of whom never receive needed
care at all.

And the French manage to provide arguably the best
health care in the world, without significant waiting
lists of any kind. There's a scene in "Sicko" in which
expatriate Americans in Paris praise the French system.
According to the hard data they're not romanticizing.
It really is that good.

All of which raises the question Mr. Moore asks at the
beginning of "Sicko": who are we?

"We have always known that heedless self-interest was
bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics." So
declared F.D.R. in 1937, in words that apply perfectly
to health care today. This isn't one of those cases
where we face painful tradeoffs - here, doing the right
thing is also cost-efficient. Universal health care
would save thousands of American lives each year, while
actually saving money.

So this is a test. The only things standing in the way
of universal health care are the fear-mongering and
influence-buying of interest groups. If we can't
overcome those forces here, there's not much hope for
America's future.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bush/ World Bank and corruption

Published on openDemocracy (http://www.opendemocracy.net)
The world’s World Bank problem

By Robert Wade
Created 2007-07-10 14:52
The fight between the Americans and the Europeans over the fate of Paul Wolfowitz obscured the bigger question of whether the world still needs the World Bank. The immediate contest may be over and Robert Zoellick installed as the new president (nominated by the White House / United States treasury), but the question looms over everything the bank does.

Before addressing this question, however, two points should be made about the Wolfowitz affair [0]. First, the blame for the scandal that brought him down was not entirely on his side, and on its own it would not have led to his departure. In particular, the bank's ethics committee gave him muddled advice when he approached it about a conflict of interest between him being president and his then romantic partner being a bank employee.

But in any case, the ethics issue became the lightning-rod for much broader anger over the way he was running the bank [1]. He had brought in a small group of lieutenants from the Pentagon and United States vice-president's office who set about administering the bank in a brutal and highly ideological [1] way. He and they showed undisguised contempt for the senior managers (advised to run an important speech about the bank's role in governance reform past the relevant vice-presidents to get their buy-in, Wolfowitz replied: "Not past this lot. That would be like casting pearls before swine.")

Robert Wade is professor [2] of political economy at the London School of Economics. He worked as a World Bank economist in the 1980s.

He is the author of Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asia's Industrialization (Princeton University Press, 1990 [3]) and of "Is globalization reducing poverty and inequality?", in John Ravenhill, ed., Global Political EconomyOxford University Press, 2005 [4])

Also by Robert Wade in openDemocracy:

"Inequality of world incomes: what should be done? [4]" (14 November 2001)

"The invisible hand of the American empire [4]" (13 March 2003)

"Globalisation: emancipating or reinforcing? [4]" (29 January 2007The senior managers became cowed, and spent their time trying to figure out how to minimise their vulnerability, rather than exercise their professional judgment. Those who pushed back were invited to seek employment elsewhere. The lieutenants systematically corrupted the bank's checks and balances, especially in staff recruitment and promotion (though this process was already well advanced under James Wolfensohn [5]).

The second point relates to Wolfowitz's declaration (which he made with a straight face, and he highlighted as his biggest regret about resigning) that pushing forward the corruption agenda was his signature issue. It is true that in some countries and in some sectors corruption is a big problem, substantially lowering the productivity of investment and the legitimacy of the state. But Wolfowitz and his lieutenants defined the agenda in narrow and punitive terms, as though the bank should punish a country (refuse new loan proposals, for example) wherever corruption is uncovered.

But corruption is endemic in developing countries because they are developing countries. The corruption agenda has to be broad enough to include civil-service reform, and legal and judicial reform - yet the bank is hardly staffed up with experts in these areas. Moreover, the board and the staff also saw Wolfowitz as wanting to apply the corruption agenda selectively, as a cover for advancing United States-centric political objectives.

For example, two months after the United States was obliged to comply with an Uzbek government demand [6] that the US should withdraw its military forces in the country, the bank announced in March 2006 that new loan proposals for Uzbekistan were suspended [7], ostensibly for reasons of corruption in bank projects. The bank now does have a more sensible corruption agenda, which board and staff have endorsed. But it will take some time to recover momentum because of the way corruption has been discredited by the Wolfowitz team.

The challenge of reform

The new president, Robert Zoellick [8], is a good choice - if the choice had to be restricted to someone in the Bush circle.

Apart from the day-to-day challenges, the biggest challenge for the new team is to find a way out of the bank's crisis of relevance. Its market has changed fundamentally in the past decade, but the bank continues to operate in much the same way and with much the same products as a decade ago and more. The challenge to reposition itself is almost as big as that faced by the March of Dimes when a cure for polio was found.

The change in the bank's market was dramatically symbolised in May 2007 when the African Development Bank [9] held its annual meeting not in Africa but in Shanghai - an event which will be looked back on as a milestone in the history of the early decades of the 21st century.

In its traditional products - aid projects and economic policy advice to governments of developing countries - the bank faces an array of new competitors [10]. These include China and Korea, which have become big sources of financial assistance to poorer countries; private consulting firms; private investment banks; and private foundations, like the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation [11]. But the bank retains a sizeable competitive advantage over these other entities based on three elements: its governmental guarantees, its own revenue base, and its global reach.

The bank can and should shift more of its activity into genuinely global problems, where private-capital markets are less likely to lend, especially for global-problem-reducing investments in low-income countries. For example, it can and should take a much bigger role in tackling one of the biggest questions of our time: how to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions. The bank has much experience of translating economic policies into investment plans and investment plans into investments on the ground. It should use this experience to take the general conclusions of the Stern report [12] (October 2006) and the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports [13] (2007); spell out what the general conclusions mean for specific countries, like China, Russia, India, Bangladesh, and Brazil; and then work with these governments to formulate concrete plans of action.

The bank would have to develop new financing instruments to accelerate the uptake of climate-friendly technologies [14]. For example, a carbon fund - or since the fund should not be tied only to carbon, a "climate stabilising and adaptation" fund. Such a fund could be used to encourage a developing country government to borrow from the bank for a power station and choose a state-of-the-art minimum carbon-emission technology even though more expensive than the standard one, with the fund rather than the government bearing the incremental cost. The fund could be used to accelerate climate-friendly technologies in power, transportation (eg railways in Africa), forestry, land use, and still more.

Some of the finance could come straight from World Bank reserves [15]. The reserves are currently $36 billion, while only $25 bn is needed to maintain the all-important triple-A credit rating. The fund would also receive grants from OECD governments and private foundations.

Also in openDemocracy on Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank:

Alex Wilks, "US bank or World Bank? [15]" (26 March 2005)

Sidney Blumenthal, "Paul Wolfowitz's tomb [15]" (1 June If the world says no

To advance in this direction the bank [16] has to address another looming question: how to decouple itself from White House/treasury control. At a dinner party a few years ago Laurence Summers - then president of Harvard, and former US deputy treasury secretary, then treasury secretary - exclaimed enthusiastically that until he entered the treasury he had not realised just how useful were the bank and the International Monetary Fund [17] (IMF) for US foreign-policy objectives. His remark is all the more striking because he had earlier been vice-president for economics and research at the bank - so he was scarcely an outsider.

Certainly the US executive branch thinks that "we" still need the World Bank (though the Congress does not always appear to agree); and that we need the bank with its present governance arrangements, which give the US its dominance [18]. But as some developing countries gradually become more self-confident (China, Brazil and India for example) the hope is that their governments will in one way or another assert themselves more in the governance of both the World Bank and the IMF, and ease the organisations out of the heartland of the American empire [19].

Any shift may be galvanised by desperation. The Americans basically run both the World Bank and the IMF (the Europeans may appoint [20] the fund's managing director, but the Americans have a lock on the fund's number-two position, whose incumbent is often more powerful than the managing director). How long will it be before the bank's middle-income borrowers - seeing the organisation as US-dominated and concerned to impose upon them free-market policies advantageous to the US (or protective policies advantageous to the US, like intellectual-property protection [21] of the US type) - walk away, and deprive the bank of the interest revenue which is the main component of its revenue base?

How long will it be before the developing-country executive directors on the board of the bank and fund insist - as they could if their governments were not afraid of upsetting the Americans and Europeans - it is high time that an Asian, or a Latin American, or an African or a Canadian could lead one of these organisations? How long before they say (to echo Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz): "we are not in 1944 anymore"?

At least the board of the bank had the gumption to call Zoellick to something like an "interview" before agreeing to support [22] his nomination (even though their agreement was guaranteed just about whatever he said). A dedicated optimist might say that they were acting in the spirit of the Chinese proverb, "cross the river one stone at a time". Let's see whether Rodrigo de Rato [23]'s successor at the IMF is nominated after a search which includes non-European (and non-American) candidates.

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[6] http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/pp073105.shtml
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[10] http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4364
[11] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/default.htm
[12] http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/sternreview_index.cfm
[13] http://www.ipcc.ch/calendar.htm
[14] http://www.wri.org/climate/pubs_description.cfm?pid=4292
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[17] http://www.imf.org/external/about.htm
[18] http://www.bicusa.org/en/Issue.10.aspx
[19] http://newleftreview.org/?view=2305
[20] http://news.independent.co.uk/business/analysis_and_features/article2750528.ece
[21] http://www.computing.co.uk/vnunet/news/2188919/singles-top-piracy-offenders
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[23] http://www.imf.org/external/np/omd/bios/rrf.htm

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Barak Obama in Oakland, California

Another world is possible; U.S. Social forum

Another U.S. is starting to happen

The slogan of the USSF was 'Another world is possible,
another U.S. is necessary.' It was interpreted both as
another U.S. and another 'us,' meaning the left has to
reinvent itself.


by Judy Rebick July 9, 2007

After spending five weeks in Bolivia this summer, I was
convinced that the new paths out of this destructive,
hateful morass we call neo-liberalism would come from
those most marginalized by its greed and violence.
Little did I imagine that one of the strongest signs of
this direction would come from the belly of the beast

Ten thousand people, overwhelmingly poor and working
class, the majority people of colour, at least half
women, and a massive number of youth gathered in
Atlanta, Ga. at the end of June for the U.S. Social
Forum (USSF) signaling what could be the birth of the
most powerful social movement the U.S. has ever seen.

"Never in my wildest imagination, did I think I would
ever see something like this in the United States,"
Carlos Torres, a Chilean refugee now living in Canada,
told me halfway through the forum. The sentiment was
repeated again and again by Latin American visitors who
were there as emissaries from the World Social Forum
(WSF). It was radical, it was militant, it was
feminist, it was anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist,
it was queer, it was loud and lively and it was
brimming with love, kindness and a deep sense of

The slogan of the USSF was "Another world is possible,
another U.S. is necessary." It was interpreted both as
another U.S. and another "us," meaning the left has to
reinvent itself.

And it was a major step forward for the World Social
Forum movement. The idea of a U.S. social forum came
from a couple of people who went to the 2001 WSF in
Brazil and then brought a few more with them in 2002.
They formed a group called Grassroots Global Justice
and began the process of organizing a U.S. social
forum, firmly in the WSF spirit.

One of them, Fred Azcarate, then with Jobs with
Justice, now with the AFL-CIO, explained to the opening
plenary that "it took this long because we wanted to do
it right by building the necessary relationships among
the grassroots organizations and ensuring the right

And the right outcomes were to create the conditions to
unite the disparate grassroots people's movements
around the U.S. across race, age, sector and region.

They got the idea from the WSF but they took it beyond
where anyone else has managed to go, except perhaps in
Mumbai. In Nairobi, poor people demanded a significant
place in the WSF planning process and in Atlanta, they
had one. The national planning committee represented
what they call national and regional "base-building"
groups, whose base is mostly poor and working class
people. It seemed to this observer that the forum
shifted the balance of power on the American left to
the poor and oppressed from the middle class. Time will
tell what impact this will have.

Every plenary focused on building alliances among the
myriad of grassroots movement across the United States.
Most emphasis was on a "black-brown" alliance to combat
the racism that divides African Americans from their
Latino and immigrant brothers and sisters. But there
was also a lot of focus on student/labour alliances and
environmental issues were completely linked to social
justice issues. Support for gays, lesbians and
transgendered people who have been major targets of the
Bush administration seemed universal.

The forum ended in a People's Movements Assembly, where
various regional and issue caucuses presented their
resolutions. Several new national networks were formed
and the bonds of solidarity were deeply forged among
those who are usually divided. People left with the
commitment to organize social forums in their regions,
cities and neighbourhoods. Over the course of the week,
the social forum became a synonym for creating a
movement of movements everywhere.

"People are asking me when Atlanta has ever seen
something like this," Jerome Scott of Project South and
veteran Atlanta activist speaking of the opening march.
"I've been reflecting on that and my answer is Atlanta
has never seen anything like this. The Civil Rights
movement was mostly African American and last year's
May 1st (immigration rights) demo was mostly Latinos
but this march was the most multi-national action I
have ever seen. It was beautiful."

Almost every one of the 900 workshops over four days
was filled to the brim with activists who were sharing
strategies in everything from food security to
community/labour alliances to a new taking back our
cities movement against gentrification. The plenary
speakers were majority women, people of colour, and
young people. There was not a single left-wing star
among them. In a culture obsessed with celebrity, the
organizing committee decided they didn't need any, even
the good ones.

None of the big NGOs in the United States were on the
planning committee. The idea that foundation-funded,
majority white, centrist and Washington dominated NGOs
and think tanks have hijacked the left was present
throughout the forum. These groups were welcome to
participate, but not in a leadership capacity.

Another extraordinary feature of the forum was the role
of indigenous people who led the opening march and
participated on several panels as well as had their own

Much of the vision came from them. After talking about
the melting of the glaciers, Faith Gemmill from the
REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on
Indigenous Land) in Alaska said, "Our people have a
prophesy that there will come a time in the history of
humanity when people are in danger of destroying
ourselves. When that time comes, a voice will arise
from the North to warn us. That time is now. I was sent
here to give you part of our burden to speak up now
against the greed."

And Tom Goldtooth who represents the Indigenous
Environmental Network on the national planning
committee said, "We must talk from the heart and shake
hands with one another. A prayer has taken place that
this spirit is going to grow. No matter who we are we
must demand not reform of a broken system but
transformation. We need to organize from the

And many did speak from the heart.

The plenary on Katrina was stunning to me. While I
certainly followed the immediate aftermath, I had no
idea of the continuing efforts to whitewash New
Orleans. Dr. Beverley Wright speaking from the floor
said, "Our parents and our grandparents fought to buy a
house to pass on to their family and they are trying to
take that away from us when they talk about turning the
place we lived in East New Orleans into a green space.
They're not talking about turning the place rich white
folks live into green space."

Another community leader said, "Katrina is both a
reality and a symbol. If you work in justice, if you
work in health care, if your work in housing, you are
in Katrina."

One of the most powerful speeches was from Javier
Gallardo from the New Orleans Workers Center. A guest
worker from Peru, he explained that when African
Americans were displaced, hundreds of workers like him
had been brought in from Latin America for Gulf Coast
reconstruction and their employers names are on their

Their ability to stay in the U.S. is dependent on the
employer. Gallardo said that there is now a practice
that when the employer is finished with the workers, he
sells them to another employer for $2,000 each. "What
is that?," he asked.

"We call it modern day slavery. They want to divide us
but the old slaves and the new slaves can join together
and together we can defeat them," he continued to
thunderous applause. The old slaves/new slaves metaphor
wove its way through the rest of the forum in the
powerful idea of a black-brown alliance, that veteran
activists said would transform left-wing politics in
the United States and especially in the South where the
vast majority of the working class is now black and

Another impressive feature of the forum was the
handling of conflict. When the Palestinian contingent
objected that they were the only group not permitted to
speak for themselves in the anti-war plenary, the
organizers read their letter of protest to the next
plenary. When the report of the indigenous caucus was
stopped at the end of their allotted time by the
moderator of the People's Movement Assembly by removing
their microphone, they took grave offense and felt

Within 10 minutes, most of the indigenous people in the
room were on the stage with the consent of the
organizers. What could have been an explosive divisive
moment with a lot of anger and hurt was handled with
incredible skill by both permitting the protest and
making sure it was interpreted in a way that created
unity rather than division. I had the feeling that a
new culture of solidarity was being born, one we tried
for in the feminist movement but never quite

Of course there were weaknesses in the forum. While
strongly rooted in the traditions of the civil rights
movement by the symbolic location in Atlanta and the
presence of veteran civil rights activists, there was
less discussion of working class or even feminist

Yet the impact of those movements were strongly felt in
the powerful female leadership present everywhere and
the strong emphasis on workers' issues and organizing.
None of the big environmental groups was present. While
the issue of the war and U.S. imperialism had pride of
place, the mainstream anti-war movement had little
presence. The forum organizers bent the stick quite far
towards poor, working class, indigenous, queer and
people of colour groups and perhaps this was necessary
to create the kind of movement really capable of making
change in the United States.

In her famous speech at the 2002 World Social Forum in
Brazil, Arundhati Roy famously said, "Remember this: We
be many and they be few. They need us more than we need
them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her
way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

It wasn't a quiet day in Atlanta but I could hear her
shouting there, "What do we want? Justice. How will we
get it? People Power."

Judy Rebick holds the Sam Gindin Chair in Social
Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University in Toronto.
She is a founder and former publisher of rabble.ca. Her
most recent book is Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a
Feminist Revolution.

Democrats on NCLB.

Comments from last week's conference of the National Education Association, lifted from EdWeek and the NEA web site: www.nea.org, where video clips are also available. All the Democrats running for president seem to have figured out that testing isn't too popular these days. They offer some nice sound-bites. Of course, what they would do about NCLB remains a little vague.
Senator Hillary Clinton:
“We need a new approach, one that is balanced—that puts learning, not memorizing and testing, front and center in American education again. … It’s time that we start supporting educators and quit pointing fingers. We should reward teachers when schools show achievement gains. We can’t do this unless we finally fix what is wrong with No Child Left Behind.”

“Our children are getting good at filling in those little bubbles. But how much creativity is being left behind? How much passion for learning is being left behind? … The test is becoming the curriculum when it should be the other way around.”

Senator Barack Obama:
No Child Left Behind is “one of the emptiest slogans in the history of American politics. Left the money behind when they passed No Child Left Behind. Left the common sense behind.”

Senator John Edwards:
“A test does not tell us what we need to do help our children to learn. A test does not prepare our teachers, a test does not give us the information we need to make our public schools better. … How long is it going to take us to figure out you can’t educate kids by testing them to death?”

Senator Chris Dodd:
“Learning is not filling in the bubbles. It is about connecting the dots.”

Gov. Bill Richardson:
“This is unfair and this is crazy. It’s got to stop. [NCLB] can be improved, it must be improved and when I’m elected it will be improved or it will be abolished. … If a school isn’t doing well, we should help that school, not hurt it.”

“Our nation’s school reform has made our schools look more like reform schools with all the mindless testing and bureaucratic regulations.”

Senator Joe Biden:
“You cannot build a new economy by having our children constantly fill out bubbles. You have to free [students’] minds.”

Dennis Kucinich:
“Yes, we need to make sure children can read, but we do not want to defeat the learning experience and make it all about testing, because then all you have is a generation of test takers, not a generation of visionaries ready to lead the nation forward.”

Friday, July 06, 2007

Joe Wilson, Libby, on Democracy Now

An important show. I encourage you to read or watch the entire session.

JUAN GONZALEZ: While Libby won’t see a day of jail time, he will still have to pay a $250,000 fine. But now there’s a question of whether he will even have to serve the two years of supervised probation imposed by the trial judge. US District Judge Reggie Walton said Tuesday that under federal law, the probation period may be called into question with the commutation of the sentence.

In an ironic twist to the story, now the only person to serve jail time in the CIA leak case turns out to be a journalist. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for contempt of court in July 2005 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the leak. Miller refused to violate her oath of confidentiality to Libby and spent eighty-five days in prison. Libby was the only person charged in the federal investigation. No one was charged with the leak itself.

AMY GOODMAN: The whole story dates back over four years ago and centers around the invasion of Iraq. In July 2003, veteran diplomat Joseph Wilson published an op-ed in the New York Times, four years ago tomorrow, refuting Bush’s claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. Wilson had been sent by the CIA to Niger to investigate those claims and found them to be false. The article forced the Bush administration to admit a key justification for the invasion was false. Within a few days of its publication, the White House leaked the name of Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame and her CIA identity.

Joe Wilson joins us today to talk about the case. A veteran diplomat, Joe Wilson was the acting US ambassador to Iraq before the ’91 Gulf War and was the last US official to meet with Saddam Hussein before the war began. He is the author of The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity. Ambassador Wilson joins us from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives with Valerie Plame and their two children now. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ambassador Wilson.

JOSEPH WILSON: Nice to be back with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It's good to be with you. First, your overall reaction: were you surprised to the erasing of Scooter Libby's prison sentence by President Bush?

JOSEPH WILSON: There is very little that this administration does these days that surprises me. I believe that the President is corrupt to the core, and his administration is corrupt from top to bottom. I think, in doing this, he has actively subverted the rule of law and the system of justice in our country, which has undergirded our democracy for 231 years. It's a disgrace. I believe that it casts a pall over him and his office and begs a question of what was the quid pro quo and whether or not he is now an active participant in an ongoing obstruction of justice in the cover up of the lies that they used to justify our invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq in the first place.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And why do you say a quid pro quo? Your perspective on why you think the President is engaged still in a cover-up?

JOSEPH WILSON: Well, clearly, at the time of Mr. Libby's conviction by a jury of his peers on four counts of lying, perjury and obstruction of justice, the special prosecutor in this case, representing the US government, said that Libby had blatantly and repeatedly lied, and as a consequence, sand had been thrown in the eyes of the umpire, by which he meant he was unable to get to the facts surrounding the underlying crime, the betrayal of the national security of our country. And Mr. Fitzgerald said that there remained a cloud over the Vice President and over his office.

Now, with his sentence commuted, Mr. Libby now no longer has any incentive whatsoever to begin to tell the truth to the special prosecutor, to wipe that sand from the umpire’s eyes, and to either lift that cloud over the Vice President or let it rain on him. So this is much more than just a commutation of Mr. Libby's sentence. This is a cover-up of the Vice President's role in this matter and quite possibly the role of the President and/or some of his senior White House advisers.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's go through what this commutation of the sentence, the erasing, of the sentence means: taking away the incentive for Scooter Libby to speak to the prosecutor, cooperate with the prosecutor, since he won't be going to jail, but at the same time, since he wasn't pardoned at this point, if he’s called to testify before Congress, he can plead the Fifth Amendment, because he's still in the midst of his case. Is this accurate, Ambassador Wilson?

JOSEPH WILSON: I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding, from what I've read, is that that’s correct, that since he’s still in the appeals process, that he can still exercise his Fifth Amendment rights. I believe that can be overcome by offering him immunity from prosecution, which may be the only course that the Congress or this prosecutor now has in order to compel his testimony.

AMY GOODMAN: It also means -- I mean, President Bush has said now for years that he, Vice President Cheney won't comment on this case while it's in litigation, and without doing the pardon right now -- perhaps it's to come, since President Bush has left that open -- Bush and Cheney continue not to have to comment on the case, the issue of President Bush having said that anyone in the White House who leaked your wife's name would be fired, would be out.

JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I think that that would be a patently absurd assertion. The President of the United States, in his statement, actually recognized the validity of the verdict, so for all intents and purposes the investigation on the facts is over. Anything to do with the appeal would be on matters of law. The President, I think, owes the American people a full explanation of his role and of the role of the Vice President in this betrayal of the national security of our country. And he should begin by instructing Mr. Fitzgerald to release the transcript of his interview with the special prosecutor and the interview of the Vice President, as well as other interviews of senior government officials. In fact, I would go further, I would argue that he should call on the special prosecutor to release the transcripts and all evidence that he has gathered in this investigation, so that the American people can assess for themselves what it is that is this cloud over the Vice President that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has talked about repeatedly.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Joe Wilson is staying with us for the hour. We’re going to go to break now. When we come back, we'll go back in time to President H. W. Bush, the President’s father, and his relationship with Ambassador Wilson when Ambassador Wilson was the acting ambassador in Iraq in the first Gulf War. Stay with us.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Ambassador, I'd like to ask you, the defenders of President Bush’s actions say that the presidential pardon power doesn't have any limits to it, and obviously whether it's in the Clinton administration or prior administrations, there’s been a lot of political operation in terms of the use of the pardon power. What's your response to that?

JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I think that's probably right. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but I think it does beg the question as to whether the President, in so doing, became an active participant in an ongoing cover-up and obstruction of justice and thereby brought himself into violation of the law. And clearly the appropriate remedy for that would be impeachment. This issue was discussed by the founding fathers. James Madison, I believe it was, and I think George Mason were the two who discussed this at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Clearly, the hearing next week chaired by Chairman John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee, I suspect, will want to get into these matters. I hope that they have constitutional lawyers amongst their witnesses.

AMY GOODMAN: How does this affect your lawsuit, you and your wife Valerie Plame's lawsuit against -- well, explain exactly who it is against?

JOSEPH WILSON: Sure, the American justice system provides us with an opportunity to seek civil justice, as well as criminal justice. Indeed, the state is the one who sought criminal justice in this matter. And so, we have filed suit against Vice President Cheney, Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove and Mr. Armitage. Those are the ones that we know were actively leaking, betraying Valerie’s identity to members of the press. There are a number of charges that we have made. People who want to know more about the charges and read the complaint can go to www.wilsonsupport.org.

It's pretty clear to us now that with the President's machinations to try and avoid accountability and responsibility for the actions of his administration, that the only venue left for the American people to get the truth in this matter and the only venue left for ensuring some accountability of those who would abuse their public office and to deter future generations of public servants from engaging in similar behavior is a civil suit.

So, again, people can go to www.wilsonsupport.org to hear all the details about it, but essentially we are charging the Vice President, Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove and Mr. Armitage with having abused our rights -- rights of privacy, rights of employment, constitutional rights of protected free speech -- and we want to hold them to account for what they’ve done, not in our names, but in the names of those who actually believe that this should remain a democracy and the values, which have held us in such good stead since the passage of the Constitution, should continue to be respected.

AMY GOODMAN: Your wife, Valerie Plame, testified before Congress for the first time in March. She spoke about the case during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This is some of what she had to say.

Democracy Now.org

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC: on Bush

"For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.

Keith Olbermann. MSNBC. July 3, 2007.

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